A five-day Croucher Summer Course on “Research Methodology for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response” was held between 22 and 26 of July at The Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care. Sponsored by the Croucher Foundation, the course was organised by the Collaborating Centre for Oxford University and CUHK for Disaster and Medical Humanitarian Response (CCOUC) and attended by 17 young researchers and postgraduate students from Hong Kong, China, in addition to eight other countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Turkey, and Switzerland.
The Croucher Summer Course sets out to educate and inspire promising postgraduate students and early career researchers from the region. It offered a unique opportunity for young professionals from different walks of life to interact with renown academics in the area of disaster epidemiology and experienced humanitarian aid-workers from international NGOs.
Professor Chan, CCOUC Director, together with Professor Kevin Hung, research manager of CCOUC, discussed the strengths and weaknesses of various field-based research methodologies, and examined how humanitarian system benefits from technology-assisted, real-time impact evaluation in disaster situation.
Research fellow of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Ms. Chiara Altare, delivered a lecture on nutritional assessment during emergency, and introduced the International Disaster (EMDAT) and Complex Emergency Databases (CEDAT) to the audience. While Dr. Elizabeth Newnham, CCOUC regional research fellow and research associate of the Harvard School of Public Health, shared her experience in using qualitative methods to study the mental health outcome of disaster-affected populations.
Participants of the course also benefitted from a seminar delivered by Professor Colin Graham on the current publication trend and research practices from his perspective as editor-in-chief of the European Journal of Emergency Medicine.
In addition, Dr. Natasha Reyes, Manager of Emergency Response Support Unit, and Dr. Rhitam Chakraborty, Field Human Resources of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), shared their grounded views on conducting operational research. “There are lots of challenges in operational research especially in emergency settings, but we do manage to deal with these challenges and yield useful data that has high implications to our programmes in the field,” said Dr. Reyes, as she explained a randomized controlled trail conducted to compare the effectiveness of home-based versus hospital-based care of severely malnourished patients in Chad.
The course ended with participants presenting research protocols to their fellow colleagues. “The course puts emphasis on evidence-based interventions to address medical needs in humanitarian emergencies,” says Prof. Chan, “by the end of this intensive course, it is our hope that participants will be able to apply epidemiological techniques to design and investigate the health impacts of disasters and conflicts in the Asia Pacific context.”